Tefillah Tuesday: Imagining Jacob

When davening the Shema, it is important to reflect that you are not addressing God. Hear O, Israel, we say. This is not a conventional prayer from earth to heaven. It is a social, human moment, addressed to … whom? Israel. The simple meaning of this phrase is that we exhort each other, reminding our… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Buzzing Bee

Davening Shema in public, you’ve probably noticed people making certain small but distinctive verbal gestures. When saying Adonai echad, people often pound on that final dalet, so that it sounds like this: echad-DUH. And toward the end of the third paragraph of the Shema, people stress the letter zayin in the word tizkeru, so that it sounds like this: tiZZZ-keru. Both of these pronunciation… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Beyond and Within

שמע ישראל ה’ א’להינו ה’ אחד The core of Jewish worship – which we recite twice daily, when we lie down and when we rise up – is Shema Israel, proclaiming that God is One, Adonai Echad. But what does that really mean after all? When Shema appears in the Torah [Deut 6.4], echad is used adverbially. Moshe is probably telling… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Blessing on Study

Although it is the center of our prayer service, Shema Israel is not a really prayer at all. For one thing, it is not addressed to God, but to our fellow Jews, as we remind each other: “Hear, O Israel.” While Shema can and should be recited with devotional intensity, actually, reciting the three biblical… Read more »

Tefillah Tuesday: Chosen People

ובנו בחרת מכל עם ולשון, “And You chose us from among all nations and languages and drew us near to Your great name.” The Ahava Rabbah blessing continues by expressing gratitude for divine election – the claim that God “chose” Israel to bestow upon us this Torah lovingly and give us the opportunity to worship… Read more »